Eversource Objects To Regulators Rehearing $84M Seacoast Powerline Project

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Nancy West photo

Eversource NH President William Quinlan, left, talks with Todd Selig, Durham Town Manager who represents intervenors Durham and UNH, and Durham Town Councilor Wayne Burton, in December during a break in day one of the Seacoast Reliability Project deliberations in Concord.

By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org

CONCORD – Eversource objected Friday to motions for rehearing the Seacoast Reliability Project filed Monday by the town of Durham, Conservation Law Foundation and Durham residents.

The unpopular $84 million, 115k powerline from Madbury to Portsmouth won unanimous approval from the Site Evaluation Committee on Dec. 10, 2018. The SEC deliberated over five days after 16 adjudicative hearings in Concord.

The SEC determined the project met the criteria in the law to build the line and made note that it is a reliability project, which means it has been deemed necessary to meet the Seacoast’s future electricity needs.

Attorney Barry Needleman, representing Eversource, addressed the three motions together in the objection. Those were filed by the town of Durham, Conservation Law Foundation and Durham residents.

“The motions fail to raise any issue that was overlooked or mistakenly conceived by the subcommittee and fail to present any new evidence, or any evidence, that was not available during the adjudicative hearings,” Needleman wrote.

“Instead, the motions simply rehash prior positions and argue that the SEC ‘got it wrong,’” Needleman wrote, adding the motions for rehearing should be denied.

Durham is seeking reconsideration because Eversource failed to obtain Governor and Executive Council approval to put the cable and 8,600 square feet of concrete mattresses in tidal waters crossing Little Bay, among other reasons, according to Durham Administrator Todd Selig.

 “Durham believes the SEC should reopen the case and revisit its approval of the project,” Selig said in an email.

Needleman said CLF and the town of Durham made identical arguments in their post-hearing briefs.

“The subcommittee fully considered these arguments and correctly concluded that Eversource has a valid license to cross Little Bay. Governor and Council approval is not required, and Eversource had properly notified the (Public Utilities Commission) of its intent to use concrete mattresses to ensure compliance with the National Electrical Safety Code,” Needleman said.

The town also argues that Eversource should have obtained approval from the Governor and Council for its wetland permit, he said.

“The NHDES wetland permit does not contain any such requirement…,” the motion said.

Needleman said: “To the extent the parties wish to introduce new evidence, they have all failed to show why that evidence could not have been presented at the original hearing.”

 The committee heard from 41 witnesses; 21 applicant witnesses, 4 CFP witnesses, and 17 from the interveners. The committee considered over 450 exhibits and received oral and written statements from the public, Needleman said.

Needleman also addressed the jet plow method for burying cable under Great Bay.

“The applicant also presented substantial evidence during the hearings demonstrating that the effects of the jet plow installation will be minimal and short-term, and that the construction will not have long-term impacts on Little Bay, the natural environment, or water quality,” Needleman wrote.

He also said that while CLF argues that the record does not support the subcommittee’s findings regarding eelgrass, it has not introduced any evidence demonstrating that the project would impact eelgrass.

“The project area will be re-surveyed for eelgrass during the growing season prior to in-water cable installation to confirm that eelgrass is not present,” Needleman wrote.

He also said the committee fully considered whether the project would impact oysters and public health.

“The subcommittee fully considered the potential for the project to impact oysters and public health, and reasonably concluded that installation of the project will not negatively Impact public health.

“None of the moving parties submitted any evidence proving that construction of the project would create such impacts. Instead, they merely speculated that the project could cause an impact,” Needleman wrote.

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